Social Policy & Administration, 43(1) pp 33-53

Titmusss Social Division of Welfare (SDW) thesis is a vitally important but much neglected element of social policy analysis. This article seeks to explore the SDW, with a particular focus on fiscal welfare. Fiscal welfare has been described as forming a hidden welfare state, and while taxation is one of the main ways in which governments affect the lives of citizens, studies of welfare pay remarkably little attention to its impact. Fiscal welfare is examined by using, as an exemplar, local taxation in England, a subject that itself is neglected within social policy. Local taxation in England is of interest because it illustrates the impact of a system of taxation on different groups of citizens, and how this can operate to the benefit of rich over poor citizens. This is because the current system is highly regressive, meaning that those on low and middle incomes spend proportionately more of their income paying the tax than do those on high incomes. What is of further interest is how within the debate about reform of local taxation, concern with regressivity becomes obscured and ceases to be the focus of attention. We are thus provided with an example of how fiscal welfare remains a hidden issue. The article concludes by arguing that social policy analysis needs to move beyond the narrow confines of social welfare and develop a broader understanding of welfare, based on the SDW.